After our visit to Madrid for this year's Red Bull Music Academy, we decided to kick around Spain for a few more days and stop in Barcelona for the annual Primavera Club. Designed as an autumn counterpart to the massive Primavera Sound festival, Primavera Club features an array of acts—most of whom are not Spanish—scattered throughout smaller, more intimate venues in both Barcelona and Madrid. While many acts were only in Barcelona for a matter of hours, we managed to pin down a couple of them for a quick chat, including Bristol-based producer and twinkling synth maestro Hyetal.
On the heels of a solid string of singles—including collaborative efforts with Shortstuff and Peverelist, not to mention Velour, his project with Julio Bashmore—Hyetal (a.k.a. David Corney) released his debut full-length, Broadcast, earlier this year. Anchored by breakout track "Phoenix," the album found Hyetal taking his music deeper and extending his reach by working with a vocalist. We spoke with the producer back when his album was freshly released, but decided to check in again now that some time had passed. Hyetal gave us some insight to his thoughts on the response to Broadcast, the development of his live show, and the evolution of his sound.
XLR8R: It's been about six months since the release of your debut album. How are you feeling about the response?
Hyetal: I've been really pleased. I wasn't too sure what to expect with the album coming out. In comparison to some other people, it was fairly early on in my career making music. It's gone really well. It's done everything I wanted it to do. I thought it might be the right way to take the next step, because I found it difficult to say everything I had to say releasing 12" records. It was difficult to get the range of ideas I had into two tracks. I thought an album would be a better way to do it, and that gives you license to do some more experimental stuff that you couldn't put out on a 12".
When you refer to "saying everything you had to say," are you speaking in terms of musical ideas, or is there some kind of more literal message?
Nothing is too literal. Maybe to me, but I like to keep it vague and open to interpretation. I certainly don't have any kind of political agenda or anything like that. I'm not drumming any kind of specific message home. There are obviously things, things that are important to me, but I like to leave them open to interpretation.
You started playing live this year, in parallel with the release of the album. How has that been, especially in comparison with DJing? Are you still doing both regularly?
I haven't been DJing so much, actually. I am still doing both. I DJed for the first time in three months the other weekend. It was really nice, because I hadn't done it for so long. Getting back to it was kind of cool, but the live thing is really good. There's a fair amount of improvisation in what I do. I really like that, it kind of keeps me on my toes. The set has evolved as well. There has been a certain amount of learning on the job. When I first started doing it, it was my first experience performing electronic music and I didn't really have such a clear idea of how I could present my stuff in a live situation. But the longer I have done it, the more confident I am in what I'm doing, and the set's changed. It's great, it just continues to evolve.
What is your live setup?
It's very simple. Most of the tracks are run off Ableton. They're broken down into individual parts, and I use a Novation Launchpad and a Korg padKontrol. The Launchpad is the brain, as I try not to touch the laptop as much as possible. I certainly don't hide behind it. I just have it off to the side. I do everything on the Launchpad and play stuff over the top on the padKontrol.
Do you feel like it's difficult to put together a compelling live show as a solo electronic artist?
Yeah. There's a stigma about live electronic music being some dude hiding behind a laptop. I didn't really want to do that. At the same time, I'm not an overt performer, so it's important for me to find some way to present the tracks that is interesting, in terms of what I would have to be doing to look interesting visually. I also work with a vocalist, Alison Garner, which helps. She comes out and does shows with me as often as she can. She's in another band, so it's a bit of a balancing act. Certainly, the two of us together is much more of a natural thing, although by myself, I'm getting more comfortable as well.
When you're performing live, is there less pressure to build a dancefloor?
I'm not really aware, most of the time, if there's pressure or not, because there is not really an interruption. If I'm playing my own stuff, it's got to be the way it is. I don't really tailor it to dancefloors or specific scenarios. I just play the music. Hopefully, everyone that is there knows what they're in for.
Your music uses a lot of bright synth sounds, even when it feels kind of dark and melancholy. Is that a juxtaposition you created on purpose?
I'm drawn to a broad range of sounds. I use quite a lot of bright synths. There's also a lot of noise and atmosphere, and more subtle, darker sounds. It's important for me to present a range of different emotions. I wouldn't want to ever be too set in one specific style. Not even so much style, but mood. I wouldn't ever want to be a "dark" artist. I like the fact that I can do some '80s throwback tune, or whatever, and, at the same time, do something completely different from that.
Your melodies are often compared to old videogames. Did you actually play a lot of videogames when you were growing up? Is that a real influence?
It's definitely a real influence. I played a lot of videogames as a kid. Mega Drive stuff, really. I don't really play games anymore, but I'm from that generation. The Streets of Rage games, Sonic the Hedgehog, all that sort of stuff. It's definitely a big influence.
Have you started working on new music?
Yeah. I'm trying to get a bunch of stuff together at the moment, which is likely to be another album, if all goes to plan. I'm trying to stockpile tracks at the moment and see where I'm at next year. There will definitely be something new next year.
Moving forward, do you want to get away from doing 12"s?
I definitely don't want to get away from it, but I just want to do albums, really. I'd still like to be able to put out 12"s if I have tunes that I think suit that format. Obviously, in terms of people DJing the tracks, it's useful to release [on 12'] for a single. I think albums, for me, are the main focus, but I'm sure there will still be 12"s as well.
How much the notion of "the club" factor into your production?
Increasingly less. It's difficult to say, because I listen to quite a lot of different types of music, and I find myself in quite a different range of moods when I'm writing. With playing DJ sets again recently, I've been going back and trying to get a load of tracks together that are more dancefloor suitable. For that, I've been digging back to older house, labels like Trax and Strictly Rhythm. With the influence of that, I found myself remixing one of my own tracks into something with that sort of vibe. [The notion of "the club"] is definitely still there, but it's not the main focus at all.
Bristol has such a mythical status as a musical city, but how do you feel about the Bristol music scene right now?
I think it's good. There seems to be a lot of focus on house music out of Bristol at the moment. There are a couple people doing really good stuff. It's pretty healthy. I think the house stuff has got a little way to go, but obviously, people like Julio Bashmore have put a lot of focus on that.
Speaking of Julio Bashmore, is there ever going to be another Velour record?
Yeah, we meet up and write quite a lot, whenever we have time. It's a regular thing. They're kind of fun tracks. Julio and I are good friends, so it's a different process. When I write by myself, it's way more personal and serious. Getting together with Bashmore is just fun. We write all the time, and something will come out of it at some point.